Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Twitterdämmerung: The Twitter Opera

I remember reading somewhere that French composer Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) claimed he could use just about anything for an opera libretto -- even a newspaper article. (Judging by the quality of operas like Platée, I believe it.)

The Royal Opera House made news recently with the performance of their Twitter-driven opera, Twitterdämmerung.

The premise was simple enough. In 2009, about 700 Twitter followers contributed (in 140-character increments) to create a libretto. And, considering the sources and everyone's efforts to throw monkey wrenches (or spanners) into the works, the resulting effort works surprisingly well. (Read the complete libretto on the Royal Opera House website.)

Composers Helen Porter and Marc Teitler set the text, and this alternate-world 19th-century style opera was staged.

Is this the wave of the future? Well, probably not. But it was a great way for audiences to get engaged in a work. Is it the greatest opera ever written? Well, no (no offence to Porter and Teitler). Crowd sourcing precludes any unified artistic vision. But at the same time, something wonderful and fun was created that simply could not have come about before the rise of social media.

Which leads me to my only complaint. I've read about Twitterdämmerung, and I've watched the Royal Opera House's sample video (above). But that's it. I can't experience the work any more fully. There is no complete performance available online -- either as an audio or as a video recording.

Which means that this very 21st century opera can only be experienced the same way operas were in Rameau's day. Seen and heard by a few in live performance, and only read about after the fact by many.

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